Summer Bird Feeding

Every year about this time, customers inquire about summer feeding–should stop feeding the birds or continue? Two fears are it will cause wild birds to become overly dependent on the human-supplied offerings, thus they will loose their natural abilities to forage for food in the wild. The second anti-feeding argument suggests that the availability of easily obtained food might lure migratory birds to linger longer at the feeder, causing them to miss their optimum chance for a successful trip south. As reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article, bird experts reject both theories. The rhythms of migration are hormonally driven, and no amount of food, no matter how tasty (even J.J.’s Suet recipes!), will delay a bird’s takeoff to warmer climates. The idea that birds lose their natural abilities to survive or that their young will not learn to eat naturally because of our offerings has been firmly disapproved by scientists. As reported in the spring 1992 issue of the Journal of Field Ornithology, wildlife ecologists at the University of Wisconsin carried out a controlled experiment involving two groups of Chickadees. One bunch well fed at feeders for three years was left to fend for themselves, the other a carefully monitored Chickadee flock that had no possible experience with feeding stations. These two groups were compared during a harsh winter, and the former-feeders proved to have the same survival rate as the feeder-virgins. We put up feeders of course to feed the birds, but also for our pure enjoyment, education, and the entertainment of watching nature up close. So, do not put away that bird feeder this summer. Keep it filled and enjoy the show!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.